Stressful jobs and stressful situations can cause many of us to collapse under the pressure, but Floyd Countian Chavella Kelly has the skills to prioritize, stay positive, and reach out for a little help to keep her going, which is perfect for an aspiring trauma nurse. Kelly reached out to Big Sandy Area Community Action Program to help her stay on top of it all.

“I always wanted to be in the medical field,” she said. “I was a CNA [Certified Nursing Aid] straight out of high school.” When Kelly became pregnant with her daughter, she knew what her top priority was and she became a full-time stay-at-home mom.

After spending those important first years with her daughter, Kelly knew it was time to get back to school, so she enrolled in classes and applied to the nursing program at Big Sandy Community and Technical College. While balancing caring for her daughter and furthering her education, Kelly heard about a program offered through Big Sandy Area Community Action Program that could help her pay for school.

“I called as soon as my friend told me about it, and then I met with Trina about it,” she said. Trina Yeary is a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Career Advisor with Big Sandy Area Community Action Program. Career Advisors provide an array of services that help people re-enter the workforce or gain the skills for new, better jobs and careers. In addition to assistance to dislocated or underemployed adult workers, the agency also provides workforce services to at-risk youth and area employers. As a Career Advisor, Yeary works every day to help those in her region find gainful employment through job searches, retraining, or, as in Kelly’s case, working toward a college degree.

“It usually takes a long time when you’re trying to get in with programs. I mean, even with financial aid at school it takes forever,” Kelly said. “This was done and ready whenever I started school in August, so within a month, and all I had to do was set up an appointment with Trina, and then I gave her my school schedule and that was it.”

After her first semester back at school, Kelly was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. “I had surgery in January, right after I started the second semester, but I went straight back. I was out for two weeks, and then I went straight back.”

“I think school for anybody in the nursing program would be hard, but the obstacles that Chavella has faced this semester—I think it’s amazing what she’s done,” Yeary said. “If she had come to me and said, ‘Hey, I can’t go to school this semester,’ I mean, that’s kind of what I expected, not just from her, but from anybody. She never once mentioned giving up,” Yeary said. “A lot of people couldn’t pass the nursing program if that’s all they had going on, and she managed to pass the semester despite all of the odds.”

Kelly adds that she has had to undergo radiation treatments, the first of which was in the middle of her second semester. “I had extremely supportive staff, our professors. We were able to record their lectures to where I didn’t really miss anything. I was allowed to make up everything,” she said. “The type of cancer I have is extremely curable, so I stayed extremely optimistic the whole time, even now.”

Kelly credits her success to the assistance she received from Yeary and Big Sandy Area Community Action Program. “I couldn’t have done this on my own. I work, but I still wouldn’t have made enough money to pay for it,” Kelly said, adding that the relationship she was able to build with her Career Advisor was also helpful. “I can talk to Trina about anything. I wasn’t expecting anything like that. She makes sure everything’s done and smooth with school. That way, if I forget to turn in something, Trina’s like, ‘I need this.’”

Yeary said, “It’s not like coming into an office and just doing paperwork and stuff—from the very beginning it’s not like that. I think we really take the time to get to know people and to know what they want to do. We try to make it all about them, and I think we really care about our people—that’s just who we are as Career Advisors.”

Facing a difficult program of study, caring for a toddler, working, and having cancer treatments, Chavella Kelly is still moving forward and creating a better life for herself and her family, with just a little push from Big Sandy Area Community Action Program.

BSACAP provides Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) career advising services in Floyd, Johnson, Martin, Magoffin, and Pike counties under contract with the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP).